Tim Eyman signs Initiative 947
Tim Eyman becomes the first signer of Initiative 947 (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Dis­graced ini­tia­tive pro­mot­er Tim Eyman declared this morn­ing that he’s ready to have anoth­er go at whack­ing Sound Tran­sit and WSDOT’s Amtrak Cas­cades, exu­ber­ant­ly telling his fol­low­ers that he’s launch­ing an ini­tia­tive to slash vehi­cle fees to thir­ty dol­lars and deprive Wash­ing­ton of bil­lions of dol­lars in tran­sit funding.

I‑976 is a mea­sure to the 2019 Leg­is­la­ture, not to the peo­ple for 2018, so it won’t appear on this Novem­ber’s bal­lot. The sig­na­ture dead­line is in late December.

“Yup, that’s right. We’re off and run­ning to get the required num­ber of sig­na­tures to get Ini­tia­tive 976 on the bal­lot,” wrote Eyman, who recent­ly announced that he would try to qual­i­fy an unre­lat­ed mea­sure, Ini­tia­tive 977, for 2019.

I‑977 sought apply the Pub­lic Records Act, as cur­rent­ly writ­ten, to the Wash­ing­ton State House and Sen­ate, which have his­tor­i­cal­ly assert­ed they’re exempt.

It appears I‑977 has already been aban­doned after less than two weeks, which has to be a new record (usu­al­ly, Eyman’s time-to-fail is mea­sured in months, not days).

What accounts for the sud­den change in plans? In a word, mon­ey. What else?

Eyman tried twice in 2016 to force a vote on gut­ting fund­ing for Sound Tran­sit and Amtrak Cas­cades. Both times, he failed. Then he tried again last year, invest­ing more time and ener­gy into his attempt. But he came up short, again.

I‑976 rep­re­sents his fourth attempt in three years to qualify.

“We failed to qual­i­fy… for a vote last year,” Eyman acknowl­edged in his mes­sage, not both­er­ing to men­tion the two 2016 attempts that pre­ced­ed that failure.

“There’s two rea­sons we fell short: 1) We need­ed more time. 2) We need­ed a whole lot more mon­ey to hire paid peti­tion­ers to sup­ple­ment our volunteers.”

Actu­al­ly, all he need­ed was that money.

With enough mon­ey, it’s pos­si­ble to get any­thing on the bal­lot with a quick mul­ti-week sig­na­ture dri­ve. Even an ini­tia­tive to ban that dan­ger­ous sub­stance dihy­dro­gen monox­ide — also known as, ahem, water — would be easy to qual­i­fy in Wash­ing­ton State. Though many local­ly-based peti­tion­ers won’t have any­thing to do with Eyman and are rea­son­ably dis­crim­i­nat­ing about who they will work for, out of state sig­na­ture gath­er­ers will hap­pi­ly car­ry peti­tions for an Eyman measure.

And Eyman is hap­py to bring them here.

Despite what Eyman says in the excerpt below, new­found access to mon­ey is the only rea­son why it makes sense to reat­tempt a mea­sure that has already failed to qual­i­fy three times, and hasti­ly aban­don the plan to go ahead with I‑977.

There’s two rea­sons why we’re try­ing again this year:

  1. We have more time. Last year, we start­ed in mid-July — this time we’re start­ing in mid-April. That’s an extra 3 months. So for I‑976, we have from now until the end of Decem­ber to col­lect the 350,000 sig­na­tures need­ed — that’s 8 full months start­ing now.
  2. We already have half the mon­ey we need, but it’s absolute­ly crit­i­cal that we raise the oth­er half as soon as pos­si­ble. Hav­ing $500,000 at the begin­ning of the sig­na­ture dri­ve for I‑976 allows us to hire paid peti­tion­ers right away (they were actu­al­ly out col­lect­ing sig­na­tures over the week­end). But to keep them out there, we got­ta raise anoth­er $500,000 as soon as possible.

LET US BE CLEAR: we still want our vol­un­teers to col­lect sig­na­tures because every sig­na­ture you col­lect is one less sig­na­ture we have to pay a pro­fes­sion­al to get. But we did­n’t make it last year with just our vol­un­teers. We fell short. So we need pro­fes­sion­al peti­tion­ers and that requires rais­ing a lot of money.

On Fri­day morn­ing, the paid peti­tion­ing guys picked up 20,000 peti­tions from a local print­er to get started.

If Eyman’s claim of hav­ing half a mil­lion dol­lars in seed mon­ey isn’t a fab­ri­ca­tion, then he is on his way to restart­ing his ini­tia­tive fac­to­ry with I‑976, despite fac­ing four law­suits from the State of Wash­ing­ton for pub­lic dis­clo­sure law violations.

Eyman’s recent fundrais­ing from small dol­lar donors has been absolute­ly ane­mic, so the $500,000 he claims to have (if he real­ly has it) would have to have come from a wealthy bene­fac­tor. In the past, Eyman has received huge sums for his schemes from whales such as invest­ment banker Michael Dun­mire (now deceased), Belle­vue Col­lec­tion own­er Kem­per Free­man, Jr. (who also despis­es Sound Tran­sit), real estate devel­op­er Clyde Hol­land, and hedge fund man­ag­er Ken­neth Fisher.

Eyman said noth­ing about the source of his mon­ey in today’s email. Pub­lic dis­clo­sure law requires that Eyman iden­ti­fy who his bene­fac­tor is with­in sev­er­al weeks so that Wash­ing­to­ni­ans can know who’s try­ing to influ­ence their vote (or obtain their sig­na­ture), so Eyman won’t be able to keep the source of his mon­ey a secret for very long. Unless he brazen­ly vio­lates the law again, that is.

It’s a shame to think that some­one has once again made the mis­take of entrust­ing Eyman with a lot of mon­ey. He has proved time and again that he can’t be trust­ed with mon­ey. But some peo­ple, as we have been remind­ed a lot recent­ly, nev­er learn.

At NPI, we know the price of progress is eter­nal vig­i­lance, which is why we main­tain a project called Per­ma­nent Defense. To have the high­est chance of suc­cess, an oppo­si­tion cam­paign to a destruc­tive Eyman ini­tia­tive must start imme­di­ate­ly. Today, there­fore, is the first day of the NO on I‑976 cam­paign. We will be work­ing hard to assem­ble a broad coali­tion to pro­tect our vot­er-approved tran­sit projects and invest­ments in free­dom of mobil­i­ty, which ben­e­fit com­mu­ni­ties across our state.

If you encounter a peti­tion­er who asks you to sign I‑976, please report your encounter to us imme­di­ate­ly through our Per­ma­nent Defense project.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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5 replies on “Tim Eyman restarts his war on Sound Transit — this time, he claims, with seed money”

  1. I hope soon for anoth­er ral­ly and anoth­er ral­ly after that on the Jessyn Far­rell Plaza out­side Sound Tran­sit HQ to protest this lat­est boon­dog­gle. I am not going to be civ­il, nor respect­ful when it comes to Eyman and his nonsense.

  2. I’m a truck­er and I oppose this ini­tia­tive. We need robust trans­porta­tion infra­struc­ture to sup­port good pay­ing jobs. This ini­tia­tive would imper­il fund­ing for new rail lines, which are vital to tak­ing cars off the road and eas­ing freight move­ment. This mea­sure is a threat to my liveli­hood and I will let oth­ers in my indus­try know it’s out there and not to sign it. 

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